August 30, 2014 two of the OGRE’s joined up with Lee and Steve Karp of Endurance House Atlanta to take a short trip down to Pine Mountain, GA to participate in the Callaway Gardens Fitness Series Triathlon and 5k event at Callaway Gardens. This is an event that claims to be the oldest ongoing triathlon in the continental U.S. having run every year since 1980. That may be the case, but the information to be found online, is a bit shall we say, lacking. Regardless, the venue offers up some pretty scenery, and the event held a lot of potential. As an added bonus, this was Scott’s first triathlon event.
The event itself was billed as a 1km swim, 30km bike and 8km run, though the course and profile was not available until checkin on sunday, and even that map was a little tricky to make heads or tails of. It doesn’t help that many of the roads inside of Callaway Gardens are not properly mapped in any of the current mapping tools online, so going into the course quite blind meant preparing for an unknown.
As you will see if you look at the maps, none of the distances measured to quite the lengths expected. Not a crisis, but the event proved to be a little shorter than expected.
The swim portion of the course was cut down pretty dramatically due to a wakeboarding competition to be held in the same lake later in the day. The net result was a swim course that swam much closer to 600 meters than one 1000. Adding to the confusion here was a mixture of buoys in the water courtesy of the same wakeboarding event. All in all, the swim itself should have been a nice loop, but the confusion with the buoys combined with a lack of swim support ( 4 support ski boats, no paddle boards or wave runners for close support of swimmers ) made for a couple of scary moments as one swimmer did have a bit of panic set in early in the swim and the support simply was out of place. Competitors saved the day there, not the support staff.
This was the part of the course that probably raised the most eyebrows. The race director noted early and often that the course was quite techincial with several 90* or worse turns (14 of them in total). In addition, there was a good bit of riding up (and down) grades between 3-7%. with a total ascent of about 650 feet, none of it on straight roads, and all of it in the shade of trees, or on the edge of lakes. Certainly pretty, but a little frustrating if you are trying to maximize your speed on the bike course. Advertised at 30km, the measured distance came in at a little over 26km, and while it was fairly technical, it remained a course that could be ridden at an average speed over 20mph. In addition, the course was well marked and had support staff at every turn directing traffic. Unfortunately, in sections that meant also directing cars, as the roads were open during this time. There were moments where the ride was flowing in the same lane as cars, in a strange twist on the norm, it was the bikes speeding around cars that created most of the challenge here.
On a final note about the bike course, this was not a USAT event, and though it was never stated, there were no drafting guidelines mentioned, and it was being done. It felt more like a WTC style event than a USAT event. This would have been good information pre race to have had.
Coming off the bike, the run course went out on a short, fast section of course that is better suited to trail runners than road runners, with some sections of the path that have roots causing ripples in the pavement. That first 2.75 mile, 4km section of the run is fast, and blessedly shaded, it was quick, and featured 2 water/gatorade stations along the out and back route. At the 2.8 mile mark, though, the course turns left into a long slog of a climb, around the back side of the lake the swim was in. Honestly, I do not think the run route was a bad course by any means, but as I was having some issues at that point, I can honestly say that I had hit the ‘just slog through and finish’ wall, so my judgement of the back side of this course is probably harsher than it deserves. About all I can say is that on a good day, it should have been a fast course. On this particular day, it was not a fast course at all.
Overall, this event is one that held a lot of promise, but largely failed to deliver on the promise due to poor communication and weak swim support/safety measures. While the course is a gorgeous track, the issues place it pretty firmly on the Do Not Repeat list. At the end of the race, we all seemed to have the same feeling too. Just poor communication, and I suspect the race director was simply trying to do his best to cope with things that got pushed and changed by forces beyond his control. These things however do not excuse the issues. Which, is a little sad. The timing, location and venue for the event are all really good. It would be a great venue for a great event, with just a little more structure and communications.
The weather was perfect, if perhaps a little humid once the sun really came out near the finish of the run. The awards were presented promptly, and they did a very nice job of getting everyone their awards quickly complete with photos, as well as keeping the results posted early and often for the runners as they crossed the lines.
Race Day Equipment
Dru’s Race Day Kit
Endurance House logo’d Shorts and Singlet kit by Garneau
These are basically the Tri Elite Course kits with custom print and color setup. Superb kit, and we got to represent for some really good people, which is always a good time.
This has been my road bike this season and it will likely remain my primary bike for the foreseeable future, it is going to have to be joined by a dedicated tri bike this winter. For this race it served exceptionally well, and is for the most part a bone stock 2014 CAAD10/4. The exceptions are that the pedals are Speedplay Zero’s, and the seat has been swapped to a Fizik Airione. In addition, it has been heavily adjusted to fit me, and my slightly aggressive riding position.
Due to the moisture I expected on the course, and some lingering issues in my left heel where I bruised the heel on a rock in the yard during the week, I made a last minute switch to running in my 890’s. I did get a couple of training runs in in them so the shoes themselves would have been fine. Unfortunately, I failed to think through the entire process, and honestly I paid for it. For this distance race, I do not wear socks, and this race did not afford a good place to clean the feet in transition. So it was that I jumped on the bike with wet feet, and pushed a pace where I wasn’t going to dry out. That meant that when I hit the run transition, I went into the 890’s a little wet, with a little grit and sand still lingering on the legs and feet. As I started running, the combination of sand, grit, water and swet led to an achilles blister on the right heel. The unconscious favoring of the blister led to a hip cramp, which ultimately disrupted my run. While this remains a fantastic shoe for single discipline runs for me, I just find the versatility of the trail minimus to be the better answer for my tri needs.
Still the goto device for me, the TomTom showed well. Per it’s usual weakness, there remains no open water swim mode, but for both the bike and run, the GPS picked up exceptionally quick in transitions, and we got good maps and results for those legs of the event.
For this race, it was still the original bluetooth heart rate monitor. The TIKR is very much on the list of items to acquire and test out, but budgets being what they are, we are still working with the older model. That said, this remains the most reliable of the heart rate monitor units that we have used to date.